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When Bloggers Meet

From Peers to Friends

Amy & Me posing for Judy to take our picture.
Amy & Steph

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of meeting in person for the first time, my multi-lingual friend, peer adviser, author, speaker, blogger, world traveler, and now winner of the Literature Medal of Merit award for her memoir, Amy Bovaird. I originally met Amy virtually a couple of years ago as a fellow peer adviser for VisionAware. Shortly thereafter she asked me to be a beta readers for her first book, Mobility Matters: Stepping Out in Faith.

Not only was I delighted to read Amy’s book, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect because I’d decided to go through a more intense Orientation and Mobility Training to improve my technique with the white cane. Since her book grappled with personal issues relating to the denial and emotional aspects of her vision loss it spoke to me on a deep level and validated many of my feelings.

So when I received the Facebook message that she would be coming to Pittsburgh in a few days for eye tests I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see her. I knew the hospital where we were meeting was going to be big but I severely underestimated just how big. I almost sobbed (well, not quite cause I woulda ruined my makeup) with relief because out of nowhere a hospital volunteer appeared to ask me if I required a sighted guide, a request that I gladly accepted.

“People fear being treated differently or looked down upon. They might feel more vulnerable or unsafe in public, as if, by using a cane, they broadcast their weakness and invite danger.” ~Amy Bovaird, Author | Mobility Matters Stepping Out In Faith (Image: Quoted text is white against a transparent gray overlay superimposed on a field tulips of red, purple, pink and a solitary yellow ).I have to admit that as the volunteer and I navigated the long hallways I was intimidated by the amount of fuzzy blurs (people) and just how much I couldn’t see. In retrospect I’m thinking I probably need to adjust getting out more to acclimate to crowds but I digress.

Upon our arrival at the eye center, the receptionist guided me to where Amy and her friend Judy sat. After brief introductions we hugged and it took next to no time for Amy to be taken for her tests while Judy and I waited. Afterward we grabbed some lunch and caught up with one another.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to talk with Amy about the recent publication of the audio version on her book and her latest project scheduled to be complete in April. She writes everyday, maintains her blog (Amy’s Adventures), does speaking engagements and encourages others who are experiencing vision loss.

People fear being treated differently or looked down upon. They might feel more vulnerable or unsafe in public, as if, by using a cane, they broadcast their weakness and invite danger. ~Amy Bovaird, Author | Mobility Matters Stepping Out In Faith

Amy, who has Usher Syndrome, a condition characterized by hearing loss or deafness and progressive vision loss was told at 28 she would lose her vision to Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) a genetic condition that causes retinal degeneration then blindness. This was devastating news to a person whose job took them overseas to teach. Even so, Amy went on to travel to a number of countries including Colombia, Indonesia, Japan and Egypt. It wasn’t until later that she found out that her RP diagnosis was in fact only part of the larger diagnosis of Usher Syndrome.

In view of Amy’s accomplishments it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that she would be honored as one Ohio Valley University’s outstanding alumni on her published book. I’m just glad that I had the chance to sit with this beautiful soft-spoken woman who I got to know a little bit better.


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Makeup Perfection & Vision Loss

The Continuing Conversation

Image of two empty conversation bubbles (one blue one pink)
Image found on Disability Blog

I received the BEST surprise on Friday. After spending all day at a very informative and productive networking event it was such a pleasure to come home, get warm & toasty, go online, open my inbox and find a hidden treasure.

“I featured you on my website today under my Friday Friends column.” Was the lead-in sentence and of course I recognized the sender’s name so it was off to their site to check out the article.

Amy Bovaird, author of Mobility Matters: Stepping Out in Faith, liked a post I wrote for VisionAware so much that she decided to share it with her readers – Thank you Amy!

Friday Friends: Spotlight on Stephanae McCoy begins with a brief history on my sight loss then it goes into how women who are blind or vision impaired can be fashionable. The response from some of Amy’s readers was so kind and supportive I wanted to share it with you today.

If you’re human and I can only assume you are or you wouldn’t be reading this post, depending on your age, you’ve probably been through some stuff. One minute we’re merrily skipping through life then all of the sudden BAM…a significant life-altering event has occurred.

While the recovery period is not the same for everyone, broadly speaking it could be said that during the initial aftermath of said event your body goes on autopilot (I think this is a built-in safety mechanism for our protection during the adjustment period). Once the haze has lifted and we fully recognize what has happened to us we react with the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Again, depending on individual circumstances, the recovery period can be short, long or indefinite. If we are able and willing to make the choice to get through the after-affects of severe trauma it’s at that point we make use of any resources at our disposal to do what we need to do to keep going.

None of us are immune to disability or unfortunate situations that may arise in our lives. It becomes a matter of how we respond to these circumstances that determines our being able to move forward.

It’s important that we look at people as unique individuals who are capable of achieving our hearts’ desire. For some of us who have disabilities this may be more of a challenge but not impossible. The most difficult obstacle we face is breaking through the preconceived notions of others.

When many people experience a painful, life-changing event, though it may take time to adjust while learning new skills and techniques of doing what we used to do, we are fundamentally still the same. In my case I took pride in how I carried myself and my appearance with makeup, dress. Since losing my sight these things have not changed as they are integral to who I am however the way I achieve the end result had to be modified.

The Elephant

Photo of elephant sitting on his hind legs taking a shower under a waterfull. looks like he's having a grand time. Found on Pinterest via Buzzfeed
Found on Pinterest via Buzzfeed

People are afraid of going blind, it’s a fact that has been proven time and time again in numerous studies and surveys. Losing vision is scary.

No longer being able to see yourself during personal grooming, applying makeup, getting dressed then heading out into a world who doesn’t understand how to approach you is scary. But here’s the good news – you can adapt and go on to live a fulfilling life.

Though vision loss impacts every aspect of our lives, letting go of the need for self-imposed perfection, and opening ourselves up to new perspectives can go a long way in the healing process.

In the area of makeup, I initially decided I just wasn’t going to wear it anymore because trying to apply it was too difficult (can’t you just hear me whining?) I think this was more a matter of   a lack of control because it was like I was having an adult temper tantrum. “I’ll show you Steph, since using this makeup is too hard I’ll just quit” (picture an image of me with closed fists, arms crossed, and my best sulking face and that was my stance).

Once I got through this nasty pity party period I did several things:

  • Evaluated my processes and products, eliminated what wasn’t working and tweaked what was doable.
  • Up until last year since I couldn’t manage liquid eyeliner I just  used pencil to line under the eyes. Now I use pencil on the lids as well.
  • Stopped using foundation for a few years then began using mineral makeup, to now using a sheer liquid that blends so easily I don’t have to worry about streaking.
  • Stopped lining my lips although I think I can begin doing this again.
  • No longer use mascara on lower lashes (tried this on a number of occasions and I always end up looking like a panda – no biggie)
  • Stopped using blush
  • Went to a cosmetologist to help me with developing a personalized makeup routine

Today, my makeup technique is nowhere near what it used to be but then again neither am I. Oh sure, I’m still my harshest critic, stubborn, judgmental, and nitpicky but I’m also, a smart, resourceful, introspective, problem-solver who is still learning. I’m glad to say that though I still strive to be the best me I can be, letting go of the all-consuming perfectionism has been liberating.

Always remember – when you feel good, you look good.

“Man is the only creature that refuses to be what he is.” ~Albert Camus

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Blog Tour Book Review

Amy Bovaird

Early detection saves lives
*See below for copyright information

A world traveler with an extensive educational background, Author & Ghostwriter, Amy Bovaird, has written a book that gives greater insight into mobility acclimation. I was blessed with the opportunity to review Mobility Matters: Stepping Out in Faith, prior to its release in nine days.

Amy has Usher Syndrome, described as “the most common condition that affects both hearing and vision.”* Losing vision can be a challenge all by itself, throw in hearing loss and navigating in a sighted world becomes very scary.

Amy Bovaird Book Cover
Amy Bovaird Book Cover

Though I do not know what it is like to lose my hearing, as someone who personally struggled with the idea of using a white cane I could easily identify with many of the situations Amy talked about. The book gripped me from the beginning and I read it in one sitting.

Amy has a great sense of humor which easily comes through in her writing. There were many instances in the book when I found myself laughing or crying. Without giving too much away, one particular situation was when one of her friends was taking Amy to a picnic. The scene ended in disaster and the way Amy described it, well, let’s just say I was laughing out loud.

It seems like there are two worlds: one for the sighted and one for the blind. But it’s actually the same world, just seen from a different perspective.” ~ Mobility Matters: Stepping Out in Faith

On a more serious note, when I reached the point of reading these words: “We are invited to live for our Heavenly Father within a continuum of life experiences. We, ourselves, choose how to respond” I lost it to the point of sobbing. Depending on where we are in our spiritual lives we’ve all encountered a time where we are at a crossroad and have to make a choice.

Mobility Matters: Stepping Out in Faith, speaks to the topics on the social aspects of vision/hearing loss, the importance of mobility training, isolation, acceptance, and, belief in God to name a few. I highly recommend reading this book so that you too can become inspired.

Amy, I want to thank you for allowing me the honor to be among the chosen bloggers to review your book. You are such and inspiration and it has been my pleasure getting to know you better.

To learn more about Amy you can obtain a free chapter of her book Mobility Matters: Stepping Out in Faith, visit her blog and Facebook page from the links listed below:

*Image was obtained from Breast Cancer Info Blog. No copyright infringement is intended. If you believe that the use of this content is violating your copyrights, please contact me directly to be credited or have the item removed.